Bill Clinton: Man of the moment
former U.S. President Bill Clinton speaks at the Clinton Global Initiative meeting on September 25, 2012 in New York City. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)
(CBS News) Bill Clinton is one of our four living former presidents . . . and certainly the most visible this campaign season. In fact, he's never been one to languish on the sidelines, as Rita Braver is about to show us:
From politics to philanthropy, former President Bill Clinton is on a roll. His speech at the Democratic Convention was a huge hit:
"We believe that 'We're all in this together' is a far better philosophy than 'You're on your own!'"
Yet he even drew praise from Mitt Romney: "If there's one thing we've learned in this election season, it's that a few words from Bill Clinton can do a man a lot of good."
. . . as well as President Obama, when he got BOTH to appear at his annual Clinton Global Initiative meeting in New York late last month.
What's happening now? asked Braver.
"I think a lot of it is, when you're out of office, when you're out of the line of fire, you become less of a target," Clinton replied. "So people ask me all the time, 'Well, do you think you're doing more good now then when you were president?' And I say 'No, but I understand why you think that.'"
In fact, the good will that Clinton now engenders is inextricably tied to his good works.
The Clinton Global Initiative (or CGI) brings together leaders in all sorts of fields, connecting private donors with public needs. It's been involved in everything from building the first cancer center in East Africa, to constructing affordable, energy-efficient homes in New Orleans, where the president teamed with movie star Brad Pitt.
"I think when we started eight years ago, we had this premise that people were actually dying to be asked to do something," Clinton said, "and given some options that would make sense, so that, if they gave their time or money or whatever to a specific cause, there was a reasonable chance that some good would happen."
As President Clinton proudly told us at the CGI meeting, the organization has already touched people all over the world. "We can measure things that have happened that have helped in some form or fashion 400 million people in 180 countries," he said. "And the commitments, when totally implemented, will be worth about $70 billion."
He says he's found that NOT being President has made it easier to get some things done.
"What I have learned is that in my current role, I don't have any responsibility for the incoming fire," he said.
"So you can choose what you focus on?"
"Yeah, I can worry about the trend lines, more than the headlines."
Still, he knew he would make headlines when he jumped into this year's political fray.
"I don't remember a president in my lifetime that's done this - why have you done it?" Braver asked.
"Because I think if America makes the wrong decision, it will have very damaging consequences," Mr. Clinton said. "And I've done it more than anything else, because I believe President Obama has made better decisions than many people give him credit for."
But he is aware that his political advocacy could have repercussions for his charitable work.
"You have had a lot of Republican support for these projects," Braver said. "Have you been worried at all that your sort of reentry into the political world . . ."
"Oh, yeah, I was playing golf with one of my friends this summer, and I thought I was going to talk him into voting for the president, and he said to me, 'Are you really going to give a good speech?' I said, 'I'm going to give the best one I can.' He said, 'God, I hope you screw it up!' So I'm worried about it a little bit."
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